Enel drives 3D printing to repair geothermal components
Enel Green Power published an article noting the successful use of 3D printing in its flagship Geyser project at the Santa Barbara Metallurgy Laboratories in Cavriglia, near Arezzo, Italy.
The idea of using 3D printing to repair essential components arose during a roundtable organized by the Geyser project team. A group of technicians and experts from the geothermal, thermal and hydroelectric sectors met to discuss how to optimize the management of geothermal power plants and developed the plan.
Did you read?
Ørsted is committed to recycling wind turbine blades
Turning coal-fired power stations into storage assets
“It all started with our curiosity and our desire to use the 3D printer that we had in-house,” explains Nicoletta Mazzuca, Enel Green Power’s project manager for Geyser. “We wanted to repair parts that were going to end up in landfills because they could not be repaired with conventional forging techniques. “
The 3D printing machine is located in the Metallurgy Laboratories of Santa Barbara, at the headquarters of engineering and technical support for the production of Enel, where an additive manufacturing machine with Laser Metal Deposition (or Direct Energy Deposition) has been available since 2019. This very high-tech tool can reproduce and repair various metal parts by depositing the necessary material one layer at a time.
The pilot project began when the printer was used to repair an impeller, which is an essential part of the centrifugal compressor at a geothermal power plant.
The team purchased a powdered form of the material used to make the wheels (a special type of stainless steel called 17-4 PH), followed by laser scans and the creation of the 3D model. The work was carried out by a team led by Gennaro Raniello, responsible for hydraulic maintenance assistance – O&M Hydro Italy at Enel Green Power, and ended with the first historic repair of a worn part using this technology .
According to Enel, this sustainable innovation will trigger a cycle of material reuse: until now, worn wheels were simply replaced by new ones and ended up in landfills, so repairing them will also save around 70,000 € (85,000 $) per year.
“After a year of work, we were able to use additive manufacturing processes to repair our wheels for the first time. Not only does this give our wheels a second life, but it also saves us money while respecting the environment thanks to 100% circularity, ”added Mazzuca.
Matteo Niccolai, Head of Workshop Maintenance and Technical Services – O&M Geo Italy of Enel Green Power said: “The idea of using additive manufacturing to solve one of Geo’s supply chain issues is a concrete example of the effectiveness of sharing problems and best practices across the organization, solving critical problems using new perspectives.